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Alfond Inn Features Work By Chilean Artist Alfredo Jaar


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Image: "Be Afraid of the Enormity of the Possible” Alfredo Jaar. The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College.

This month the Alfond Inn added a few new pieces of art to its walls. The Winter Park hotel is owned by Rollins College, and displays dozens of pieces from a growing collection of contemporary art donated to the college by alums Barbara and Ted Alfond.

One of the newly installed pieces is a work by Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar. Jaar is known for his overtly political works, often photography or video installations, but this piece is pure text, consisting simply of the phrase “Be Afraid of the Enormity of the Possible” in warm red and orange neon.

The Alfond Collection holds many text-based works, including neons by Tracey Emin and Joseph Kosuth, marking the importance of language and literacy to a teaching museum. But it’s easy for text art’s aphorisms to be misinterpreted, especially as social media feeds us an unending stream of pithy “inspirational” quotes. Versions of this particular phrase from Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran pop up on countless platforms urging readers to “live their best lives”; it’s often taken to mean “dream big!” But curator Amy Galpin, deeply familiar with Jaar’s body of work, sees the piece as “unapologetically political.” In Jaar’s hands, “be afraid of the enormity of the possible” is more likely a command to ponder terrible acts of political violence than to lean in at work.

So does this glowing message use light to describe man’s dark capabilities, or to dispel it? Text-based art is all about what you read into it.


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